by Samantha Haas
on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 at 8:14am.
Limestone bluffs can be spotted along Hwy. 14 near Cross Plains, and they are worth checking out -- especially off of Scherbel Road.
That's where you'll find Festge County Park, which is 100 feet above the Black Earth Creek Valley. It's called "the gateway to the Driftless Area" for a reason, and once you walk to the stone scenic overlook you'll know why. There you'll find expansive views of farmland and wooded hills in a preglacial valley, which is described on a natural history marker featuring oak leaf symbols as a nod to the rare bur oak savanna located there.
You'll also find mature hickory trees and a restored prairie with plants that pollinators love, including butterflies. And certain times of the year you'll likely also see bluebirds flitting between the trees, too.
The park started with 12 acres which were donated by Otto and Evelyn Festge, and it was established as a Dane County Park in 1963. Now people can enjoy nearly 155 wooded acres, featuring hiking and snowshoeing trails, playground equipment, and two shelters perfect for family gatherings and picnics.
"Step into a sanctuary full of colors, light, and shadows where creatures awake to the vibrations and whispers of the forest," the Friends of Festge wrote on their website. "Come experience a place where joy, inspiration, and discovery await you."
That volunteer group helps restore, maintain, and enhance the diversity of the plant and wildlife habitats of the park, as well as the streams and wetlands of nearby Salmo Pond, which is a great spot for fishing and is adjacent to the class 1 trout stream Black Earth Creek.
The group has also exposed an historic Civil War era carriage road at Festge Park, along with clearing invasive plants to open up more views. Future plans for the park include making the overlook more accessible and connecting the park to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail system.